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Safety & Health Assessment & Research for Prevention (SHARP) — Research for Safe Work

Identifying where to invest prevention resources

Where should health & safety prevention efforts be directed to reduce costly workers' compensation claims? Let's look at where SHARP's analysis tells us to go.

Focus on compensable claims: The workers' injuries are severe and the claim costs are expensive for workers and employers

From 1998 - 2002, over 810,000 claims were filed through Washington State's workers' compensation system. These claims have directs costs of over 3.9 billion dollars. Of these 810,000 claims, 21% were "compensable." A "compensable claim" is where the injury prevents the worker from performing their normal job or duties for more than three days, or results in permanent disability or death. Compensable claims account for over 95% of the costs and 99.9% of the compensable time loss days.

What illnesses and injuries result in the most compensable claims?

When Washington State Fund claims are grouped by common types of illness and injury (or "Injury Type"), seven different Injury Types account for almost 93% of all compensable claims, 94% of the compensable claim costs, and 95% of the time loss days.

So, what are these Injury Types? SHARP's analysis showed that they are:

Washington state fund compensable claims grouped by Injury Type: 1998 - 2002
Injury Type Number of claims % claims % total costs % time loss
Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders of the Neck, Back and Upper Extremity 67,398 40.4 44.3 49.4
Struck By/Against 32,994 19.8 15.0 12.9
Fall from Same Level 16,314 9.8 10.4 10.7
Fall from Elevation 13,843 8.3 11.4 10.6
Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders of the Lower Extremity 12,441 7.5 6.3 6.3
Motor Vehicle Injuries 5,244 3.1 5.1 3.8
Caught In/Under/Between 4,473 2.7 2.2 1.8
Other Claims 14,015 8.4 5.3 4.5

Not all industries are created equal

The seven most common high cost Injury Types don't occur equally in all industries; some industries have more injuries than others. SHARP's experts analyze the data using the Washington State risk classification system for grouping employers by similar industries and occupations. These "Risk Classes" are used by Washington State to determine an employer's workers' compensation premium.

SHARP calculates a "claim count", which tells us which Risk Classes have the most claims associated with each Injury Type.

We then calculate a "claim rate" to determine which Risk Classes have the highest number of claims per 10,000 Full Time Equivalents (FTE).

Finally, we rank the Risk Classes by both the claim rate and the claim count and then average them to create a "Prevention Index." The Prevention Index tells us which Risk Classes will benefit most from organized prevention efforts.

You can see more detailed data for the seven most common Injury Types by using the links below. The detailed tables show the top 25 industries ranked by Prevention Index for each Injury Type.

The seven most common high cost Injury Types
Injury Type
Caught In/Under/Between (41 KB PDF).
Fall from Elevation (39 KB PDF).
Fall from Same Level (42 KB PDF).
Motor Vehicle Injuries (40 KB PDF).
Struck By/Against (40 KB PDF).
Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders of the Lower Extremity (42 KB PDF).
Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders of the Neck, Back and Upper Extremity (45 KB PDF).

If you don't see your industry in the top 25 for a specific type of injury but want to know more, you can e-mail us at

Is your industry at high risk for an occupational injury or illness? Would you like help designing a safety plan? The Department of Labor & Industries has resources available to help make your workplace safer. Consultation services are available at 1‑800‑4BE‑SAFE or visit the consultation services Web page.

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